Sunday, October 12, 2014

Australian Animals!

As you may or may not know, this summer I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the land down under through my Master’s grad coursework through the Project Dragonfly program!  To be honest, I could not believe I was actually going to follow through on this trip while I was thinking of the high cost, the long flight, oh my!  This trip had been a lifelong dream of mine, ever since I had read about Meggie and Ralph and seen the TV mini-series The Thorn Birds.  It was from that moment forward that I had been crazy about this unique continent, both with its genuine, fun people and it’s unique environments and wildlife.

I’m a lover of animals.  I’ve been drawing them extensively all my life and quite honestly, I’ve felt more close to animals than most other people.  I have this sense that I can understand their thinking and what they’re feeling, kind of like we are a part of one another.  I will blame all of this on the fact that I’m an only child and many types of animals kept me company, were my playmates and often my listeners when I needed someone to talk to.  I know, weird.

So it’s no wonder that heading off to Australia, I am most in amazement about all of it’s amazing creatures.  Getting there a weekend early before class started, I spent a lot of time with my classmate Peggy.  Oh how we walked and walked!  It was at the moment that we were walking along a shipping pier that we saw a huge grouping of lorikeets in one tree, swinging madly around, kissing one another and just in general, creating such a ruckus!  Peggy and I just stared up at that tree for what seems like at least fifteen minutes, now knowing why we came to this beautiful land.  Many pictures were taken although none of them were worth anything as they were all taken with an iPhone.  The memory, however, is quite clear in my mind and will hopefully last forever.

So, school starts that following Monday.  Staying at the Reef HQ Aquarium, we are told we can put our sleeping air mattress anywhere on this second floor.  We can sleep next to the clown fish, we can sleep by the starfish tank, just simply, wow!!  I mean, I’ve done this while living at home with my parents as we had over 100 tanks in our basement, but here we were, overlooking at 660,000 gallon tank that had sharks in it, and I was sleeping next to this???  That was just the start of the experiences I would encounter as part of my schooling.
There was rumor that we were going to hold koalas on Tuesday.  Gee, can anyone confirm this?  I think the anticipation amongst us was like that of children on Christmas Eve.  Sure enough, we enter Bungalow Bay (, have a glass of cordial and there next to us is a koala on a small tree for display, just within five feet of us!  Kookaburras were just around and about us looking for food.  Small crocs, lizards, you name it were around on display for us to see.  WELCOME TO AUSTRALIA!!

The following day was no WORSE!  After a three hour boat ride out to Keeper’s Reef,  I suddenly grew very apprehensive about just jumping into the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.  The clarity, the depth, the color…my senses were overwhelmed and I freaked!!  Lol!!!  Jumping into the water with the guidance of one of our instructors, Craig McGrogan, I looked down.  A shark was just casually passing by underneath me, a black tip.  I was now not scared at all but determined to look around.  Now, I’ve seen all of these fish on the reef growing up, in small tanks, ready for sale.  Here I was, the same beautiful set up but this time for real and at a much larger scale.  Fish were everywhere and of every color.  Clowns, angels, tangs, surgeons, you name it!  But this is where they LIVED.  Totally brought it home full circle to me in the story of my own life.

I will end this somewhat short story on another amazing animal experience.  That of staying at the Hidden Valley Cabins up by the Paluma range, part of Australia’s rainforest ecosystem (  Beautiful accommodations, but wait!  Don’t get settled in yet because we are headed out in the bus to go see ourselves real, live platypus!  Now this is the stuff that dreams are made of, and acting like children, we gathered around the lake in complete silence, except for the occasional crinkle of a wind breaker.  Then they came!  Well, as amazing as that was, we then left the lake to head back to the bus to discover an owl.  Our guide worked to swoon it by calling it in its native tongue, lol.  Time to head back to the cabin and this could have been the most fun to me…being completely dark outside now and listening to Australian stories told by our field guide, my eyes were glued to the road ahead.  Here and there, wallaby were jumping past the bus, almost like ghosts with their eyes glowing in the headlamps.  

Now for me, a girl growing up in the US Midwestern states, a girl used to being surrounded by deer, squirrels, raccoon and a ton of skunks, I was out of my element and loving it.  There are no words for the amount of tears that were shed on the airplane ride home.  I had been surrounded in a new world of animals and it just simply reinforced my life’s passion of saving them.  It was in eighth grade that I made the oath to save one species from extinction.  I am now on that path!!
Best Wishes,
Natalie Lynn

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Organic Cotton...the Fabric of Our Sustainable Lives!

 Well, I hope this gives you some insight into how some of our clothing is made and what the effect is of this product on our lives but also on the life of the planet...I know!  These items just show up in our stores and look cute or comfortable!!  But just like the food we eat, the clothing we wear also goes through a process that can be much healthier for us!

Organic Cotton…the Fabric of our Sustainable Lives

            When was the last time you took a look at the tag on your shirt that you’re wearing? Is it made of cotton? Most of us barely pay attention to what fabric our clothes are made of unless we’re worried about it shrinking in the dryer.  But in actuality, there is a whole long story behind where your shirt came from.  From the time the cotton seeds are planted, to the harvesting of the cotton heads which are then sold overseas to manufacturers who wind it into thread.  This thread is then sent to clothing manufacturing plants in places like India where women sit for hours sewing clothes together for less than a dollar an hour.  And finally, these clothing items are then sent by ship back to America where it ultimately ends up in our stores and on our backs.
            But let’s backtrack and explore the history of cotton farming, the effects it’s had on the life around us and ways in which this industry has worked to maintain its profit while often being at the expense of other living things.  Lastly, we will look towards today’s current cotton farms and the shifting of current methods to that of organic.  This is where the industry is heading, and thankfully, not a moment too soon.
            Cotton has been around for over ten million years!  Although we are unsure as to when and how it became domesticated, there are now over 50 species, four of which are domesticated.  Two of these are used in the clothing industry including Gossypium hirsutum which is called the Upland species and is our regular cotton.  The second species implicated in the textile industry is Gossypium barbadense, known to us as Egyptian cotton.  Gossypium hirsutum accounts for 90% of the cotton grown and farms are located all over the world in at least 50 countries including the United States, India, China and Australia.
            Cotton growing has accounted for the largest use of insecticides of all other crops grown.  While 20 million cotton farms exist, 97% of them are in developed countries with a majority being run by low-income farmers.  Due to heavy pesticide use, pesticide resistance has increased over the years which then requires even more pesticide use to combat this resistance.  Pesticides also damage the soil which leads to infertility, stagnating yields and decreased profits.  Insecticides that are used also affect other insects which are not targets including spiders, ants and bees.  Also, due to the fact that much of the chemicals are dispersed by plane and aerosolized, this in turn leads to the chemicals landing on other animals and people outside of the farm area.  In fact, 240,000 fish were found dead on the shore of an Alabama beach shortly after the farm application of a chemical called endosulfan and methyl parathion.  After the spraying, heavy rains drove the chemicals into the water, killing the fish.  In the state of California, cotton farming pesticide, insecticide and herbicide use was found to be the cause of one-third of all pesticide-related illnesses.  Being that some of the chemicals used to grow traditional cotton were first formulated for chemical warfare, it is not surprising that their use has led to cancer and birth defects in animal populations surrounding their use.  Overall, the increase use of pesticides has led to an increase in costs to the farmer and smaller profit.  A newer method of farming was needed in order to maintain profitability.  In order to improve yields and profits, cotton farmers then began utilizing GMO seeds on their farms.
            Bt cotton, or genetically modified cotton (GMO), was first introduced by the company Monsanto in 1996 in the United States.  Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria of which it’s genetic code has been inserted into the cotton plant’s DNA.  This DNA codes for a gene that produces the insect toxin called Cryl Ac toxin.  Bt cotton is more resistant to natural pests and often yields larger crops with less variability.  However, the seeds are good for only one season as the strength of the toxin produced will not last year after year.  Therefore, farmers must purchase new seeds every year which can be very expensive.  Over recent years, pests have developed resistance towards this Cryl Ac toxin.  Because of this, farmers have gotten creative in their farming methods, growing patches of non-GMO cotton around the GMO cotton or intermixing it with the GMO cotton plots which in effect gives pests a place to go.  While Bt cotton has shown some positive effects on crop yields and an improvement in the surrounding environment, rising costs for using these seeds has again been very expensive for farmers and in fact, almost unfeasible for smaller, low-income farmers.
            All this being said, the latest trend in cotton farming that is slowing grabbing hold is organic farming in order for farmers to maintain their profits and livelihoods.  Organic farming, which has a challenging start-up cost, ultimately leads to better profitability in the long run for farmers.  With organic farming, pest management is performed using preventative measures such as using the more robust species Gossypium hirsutum, intermixing cotton crops with others such as maize and pigeon pea crops and using herbal pest repellants that are either home-brew or some combination of bacterial strains.  Nutrient management is performed via farmyard manure, dung and crop residues, all of which are obtained and prepared on site.  De-oiled castor and rock phosphates are used for soil nutrient enhancement.  Weeding is done manually which adds to the higher cost of labor seen in organic farming.  Without fertilizers, the input of phosphorus and nitrogen into the ground is less. However, this has not been shown to have a negative effect on crop yields as they have been similar to those seen in the older methods of farming.  Crop profits are increased by using the same soil plots for growing wheat in the winter months.  Because of all of these factors, organic cotton farming has the potential to decrease poverty and increase sustainability in developing countries.  And for all farmers, an increase in profit over time is seen with a higher premium being paid for the organic cotton, up about 20% from that of conventional cotton.  This plus not having to buy seeds annually, no royalties being paid for GMO seeds and no chemical costs all lead to more money for cotton farmers down the road once switching to organic cotton farming.  While there is currently no official label used to identify organic cotton in our stores, certification is available to farmers, thus helping them to sell their stock more easily.  
            There is a thin line between being financially viable while also being environmentally responsible.  Education and regulation are important factors in getting more farmers to switch over to this healthier type of farming.  Farmers are much more likely to switch over once they are shown how their profit margins will increase.  Education with regards to diversification of crops and its effect on water and soil quality could be convincing.  But not only do farmers benefit but also populations of surrounding wildlife such as bees.  In turn, for us the consumers wearing the organic cotton, we now have a chemical-free, healthier product touching our skin.
            Public support of organic products in general is increasing due to our ever-pressing need to maintain the health of ourselves and our planet.  The perceived health benefit along with a love for being outdoors also adds to the appeal.  People are more likely to buy organic clothing products when their core values are in alignment with those of the companies from which they choose to purchase from.  Companies that give a profit of their sales to environmental causes are especially appealing.  The two organic clothing industries growing the quickest are sports and children’s clothing.
            The comfort and breathability of organic fabric is constantly being improved.  Often, 5% spandex is added to improve wearability by means of making it more comfortable on the body while also increasing its flexibility and movement.  Bamboo terry fabrics, which are also environmentally friendly and are growing in popularity in children’s clothing, are known to be very warm.  Wool animal fibers are now also starting to be seen in the market with the animals being fed a chemical-free diet with no antibiotics as well as being fed organically grown grain.  Improvements are being seen all over in the organic clothing industry as this market continues to grow.
            Cotton has been one of the most commercially exploited crops, being the 5th largest crop in the world and has been completely genetically modified.  Cotton cropping will continue to exploit the genetics of this plant as some farmers will attempt to increase their production and quality.   Organic cotton cropping offers an alternative for better yields and profits while also being healthier for people and the planet.  As cotton continues to be the fabric of our lives, it is with great hope that this industry will continue to work towards better resource management and preservation while continuing to keep us warm and covered.

Talksoon Lovlies!!  Be sure to subscribe to learn and see more!  Also be sure to connect with me on Twitter @EF_GH or @Natalie_Lynn.  My shop, which I now sell my own organic cotton fitness line is a great place to get started with your healthier clothing collection!

Natalie Lynn

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cheetah, Cheetaahhhhh!

Hi Guys!  I'm finally finding a free moment to post some of my research from my Spring semester of my Master's AIP program work!  I did a study on cheetah conservation, albeit, not in person!  I did a ton of technical research though in efforts to find the key to maintaining cheetah populations both in the zoo and in the wild.  It is a very complex subject!  Read it if you like and you will learn something about one of our most revered felines!  All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced or used without my express permission.

Cheetah Major Histocompatibility Complex: The Key to their Future?

N. Lichtenbert MT SV (ASCP) CPT (NASM)
 Environmentally Fashionable/Globally Healthy



Cheetahs have existed for millions of years, yet today find themselves on the brink of extinction in the wild.  Large ranges, solitude, lack of protection from predators, low birth rate, high infant mortality and low genetic variability have all led to the demise of this creature.  Recent efforts to conserve cheetahs have focused on molecular techniques and the determination of the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) and other allele variability.  While various methods of DNA molecular technology have been used, controversy exists as to whether or not these findings will lead to better conservation methods in the future.  In this paper we will discuss MHC studies which involve both captive and wild cheetahs.  Results of these findings are presented with further discussion on newer techniques on the horizon and their potential for leading to greater cheetah captive breeding and release into the wild. Molecular techniques can be costly and the vested interest of financial donors would be beneficial to further studies and positive conservation work.  Lastly we discuss the use of the EcoSpot and it’s use of engaging the public in this fascinating topic. 


While there are 37 species of cats in the Felidae family of cats, all but housecats are either endangered or extinct.  The biggest reason for this dramatic decline is the fact that these 36 species of cat need very large ranges in order to exist.  For example, a single tiger can span a range of up to 400 miles while cheetahs can wander a range of up to 600 miles wide (O’Brien & Johnson, 2005).  
The African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) once inhabited all of Africa, extending towards the Middle East and into part of the subcontinent of India (Drake et al., 2004).  Being the last member to survive from the genus Acinonyx, the cheetah has other factors involved that also lend to further decreases in population.  They have exceptionally low-density ranges due to their being very solitary animals.  Also, their cubs have a very high mortality rate, close to 70%.  Various factors go in to this high mortality rate including maternal neglect, being very susceptible to diseases as well as cubs having insufficient defenses to protect them from any predators.  Lastly, up to 71% of male cheetah sperm has abnormalities and is not functional.  The ejaculate is more than ten times less concentrated than seen in domestic cats (O’Brien et al., 1985).

African cheetahs in captivity, especially the young cubs, are particularly susceptible to disease including their biggest threat, the Feline Coronavirus, which is the deadliest virus these cats can face (O’Brien et al., 1985).  Cheetahs in north central Namibia, as well as to a lesser extent in eastern central Namibia, are in addition exposed to such viruses as FPV (Feline Parvovirus), CDV (Canine Distemper Virus) and FHV (Feline Herpes Virus Type 1) due to their close proximity to urbanization and feral dogs and cats.  The east central Namibian cats are further away from any civilization and thus have less exposure to these three viral threats.
Molecular studies have shown that cheetahs, both free ranging and captive, show low genetic variability, probably due to the inbreeding that took place over ten thousand years ago.  Low variability leads to reproductive abnormalities, greater susceptibility to disease and high infant mortality (CCF, 2012).  Species with less genetic variation have been shown to have less fitness or ability to survive when faced with challenges (Wielebnowski, 1996).  Hedrick (1996) suggests that there is a “cheetah paradigm” in play that due to genetic homozygosity, cheetahs are on the brink of extinction.  Possible theories on how cheetah DNA lost its heterozygosity include a metapopulation theory where large colonies of cats went extinct with smaller populations of the cheetahs surviving in remaining patches.  With fewer members to mix with, inbreeding occurred and the bottleneck effect on the species’ genetics led to low variation (Hedrick, 1996). 
Cheetahs exhibit a low level of genetic variability, especially at the MHC loci.  MHC, or the Major Histocompatibility Complex, are glycoproteins found on the surface of cells, and are present in all vertebrates.  They are responsible for self identity while also modulating the host’s response to emerging pathogens (Castro-Prieto, A., Wachter, B., & Sommer, S., 2011).  In order for an immune response to proceed, the body must be able to identify itself by means of an antigen presenting cell (APC) and be able to identify the antigenic threat to the body system, both of which the MHC molecule is involved in.  MHC Class I and II have a variety of important and overlapping roles.  Major Histocompatibility Complex Class I proteins are responsible for the presentation of intracellular antigens such as viruses while MHC Class II proteins are responsible for the presentation of extracellular antigens such as bacteria.  Class I gene products are responsible for helping T cells to recognize themselves while also recognizing and attacking the viral antigen.  Class II gene products augment the production of B cell antibodies used to eliminate the antigen invader.  There is also a Class III MHC protein which is found in the body’s complement system but this molecule will not be discussed in this review as it is not involved in the studies presented (O’Brien et al., 1985).  It is through environmental and immunological pressures that MHC alleles develop in response to a mammal’s surroundings.  MHC genes are the one area of mammalian systems that exhibit the process of natural selection, where the species most able to adapt are the ones that survive (Parham, 1999).
Molecular studies have recently been used to gauge the variation of Cheetah genetics using various methods.  Since it has been somewhat controversial as to whether their low genetic variability at the MHC loci has truly led to the demise of the cheetah, it may be questionable as to the value of molecular studies in captive breeding programs and further down the road release of these cats back into the wild (Drake et al., 2004).  With this being said, it is worth examining two of the previously performed studies, their results and new molecular techniques coming up in the future which may prove to be more useful to the long-term conservation of the cheetah species.  This review will describe two recent studies while describing some of the technology used and its findings.  Then more current molecular techniques will be described which may lead to larger, more valuable studies in the future.
Lastly, an EcoSpot and the use of video channels such as YouTube and Vimeo are examined in efforts to engage the public in this issue.  Only in engaging the public are we able to find the financial donors and the man-power of volunteers needed to continue the work of the scientists.

Study 1 – A study of cheetah MHC diversity in the world’s largest free-ranging popultion (Castro-Pietro, A., Wachter, B. & Sommer, S., 2011)

In this study, 149 wild cheetahs and 28 captive cheetahs had their blood drawn.  This blood was analyzed by DNA methods to determine MHC variability.  DNA was extracted, isolated and purified using a manufactured kit.  Primers and oligos are genetic sequence pieces which are used either to start the transcription of the genetic material or to incorporate into the new piece of DNA respectively.  These primers and oligos were designed and obtained for PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) thermal cycling which expands the DNA sequence to be studied through a cycle of heating (disruption) and cooling (annealing).  This product is then further purified for further analysis (Castro-Pietro, A., Wachter, B. & Sommer, S., 2011).

Observation Description
MHC Genotyping was then performed on the samples, which gives scientists the direct sequence of each strand in question.  Alleles, which are genetic coding sections that code for specific protein products, were then delineated and compared for the MHC Class I and the MHC Class II-DRB locations (Castro-Pietro, A., Wachter, B. & Sommer, S., 2011).

Data Analysis
Through the use of software, MHC Class I and II sites were compared and calculated for their differences and similarities.  Further work was done using statistics, including a t-test and using a Bayesian inference approach to relate species together phylogenetically.  Further sequence comparisons were performed using the MHC I and II DRB genomic sequences from domestic cats (Castro-Pietro, A., Wachter, B. & Sommer, S., 2011).  Sequences for such work are widely available on the GenBank, part of the NCBI website, and comparisons can be performed using alignment tools also located on the NCBI website.  The NCBI website is a conglomerate of the molecular scientific community which, for example, has a listing of all the patented genetic sequences used in testing methods for such organisms as Chlamydia trachomatis or Mycoplasma hominii.  The GenBank section of NCBI is a database of genetic sequences for all species which can be used in numerous molecular studies including cloning, sequencing and for the selection of base pair sequences which can be used in testing.

            The cheetahs studied, which were sampled from all over the country of Namibia, did exhibit all the documented alleles that had previously been observed except for one.  Yet, the number of alleles that were observed was still much lower than that found for most other mammals.  This study did confirm the low level of variability at the MHC Class II locus.  It was however found that variation was highest in the ABS, the antigen binding sites of the MHC molecule.  This area of genetic material is the most crucial in terms of being able to launch an immunologic response against an emerging pathogen in the area.
Study 2 – A Study in 88 Cheetahs to Determine MHC Variation Based on Differential Pathogen Exposure compring the cheetahs of the North Central region and those cheetahs of the East Central region Namibian Farmlands (Castro-Pietro, A., Wachter, B., Melzheimer, J., Thalwitzer, S., Hofer, H. & Sommer, S., 2012).

            Serological studies using antibody detection were used to determine the exposure of cheetahs of the north central region and compared them to the cheetahs in the east central region of Namibia first.  Viral exposure was observed to be higher in the north central region where there was increased civilization and feral cats and dogs.  Feral cats and dogs increased the likelihood of cheetahs being exposed to pathogens such as CDV (Canine Distemper Virus), FCoV (Feline Coronavirus), FPV (Feline Parvovirus) and FHV1 (Feline Herpes Virus Type 1).  While the wild cats exhibited exposure to these viruses, they did not show signs and symptoms of disease (Castro-Pietro, A., Wachter, B., Melzheimer, J., Thalwitzer, S., Hofer, H. & Sommer, S., 2012).

Observation Description
            Based with this background knowledge then, studies were performed to determine MHC I and II variation using molecular (DNA) techniques such as SSCP (Single-Strand Conformation Polymorphism) and sequencing.  In the SSCP method, single-stranded DNA is moved electrophoretically through a polyacrylamide gel matrix.  Based on structure and size, which can be different even if there is one base pair change, different strands will move different distances through the gel.  This technique is most often used to detect polymorphisms at a single locus with the ability to compare different individuals who are placed in different lanes (Davidson College, 2003).

Data Analysis
            Once SSCP was performed, these DNA sequences were then isolated with their allele sequences being determined using computer software. 

            Results showed that the cheetahs from the north central region of Namibia exhibited more variability at the MHC Class I loci when compared against their neighbors in the east central region, which was located more in the countryside. There was however no detected variation in terms of the MHC Class II loci (Castro-Prieto et al., 2012).  While results show that there is definitely an exchange of genetic material between the two population locations, the cheetahs do not have the variation needed at the Class I location, possibly leading to more vulnerability to certain viral pathogens.


            In Study 1, while low genetic variability is found in both wild and captive cheetahs, it appears that captive cheetahs prove to be more susceptible to disease or lack of adaptation to the environment.  This may be due to less than favorable husbandry situations which lead to stress and lowered immunocompetence.  Also, due to the cheetah’s solitary nature, their disease transmission in the wild is lowered as they are less able to come into contact with one another in order to spread diseases (Castro-Prieto, A., Wachter, B. & Sommer, S., 2011).
The differentiation noted in  Study 2, comparing the cheetahs in the north central region and cats in the east central region for the Class I molecule does imply that the greater exposure to various viruses has led to greater differentiation at the MHC Class I loci.  This makes sense and the information may be useful in future management and conservation programs (Castro-Prieto et al., 2012).
While the information provided in these two studies is useful and confirms some previous knowledge about cheetah genetics, results were also somewhat ambiguous, still leaving a lot of questions to be answered.  It is still not known whether or not the lack of genetic variability at the MHC complex is directly leading to cheetah decline.  Exact relationships have not yet been determined as to why captive cheetahs are so susceptible to diseases, namely the Feline Coronavirus.  Therefore, more genetic studies will need to be completed.  With newer technology being developed every year, better studies will be developed, hopefully providing information that will be more useful towards cheetah conservation work.
Genotyping sequences by RSCA or Reference strand-mediated conformational analysis is a relatively newer molecular method which uses a 384-well plate, may prove to be better suited to large-scale studies which will help to determine a species’ fitness and to correlate diversity at a given loci.  This technique is more rapid, repeatable and less subject to DNA contamination in comparison to other techniques being used such as PCR.  This technique is robust and also accurate (Drake et al., 2004).  Future studies will hopefully incorporate these newer techniques providing more detailed, more wide-scaled information that can show a truer picture


            It has been proposed that founding breeders should take a strong interest in working to incorporate as many different alleles as possible in any given captive species population.  While this idea sounds very logical and ideal, it does not bear in mind the facts hindering this including financial and political systems at work (Miller & Hedrick, 1991).  Perhaps genetic studies involving both captive and wild cheetahs will prove to be useful as it may be necessary to use different management and conservation techniques for each.
            Both these studies have confirmed the fact that both captive and wild cheetahs have low variability at the MCH complex.  However, the importance of this fact still is unclear.  While both populations exhibit the same lack of variability, the captive cheetahs appear to exhibit a higher susceptibility to disease, most likely due to their being in close proximity to one another and the ease of disease transferability. 
            Will more MHC alleles be discerned and found to have significance?  Will the MHC Class I and II molecule knowledge prove to not be worth anything at all?  Only the future work of scientists will shed light on this topic down the road.


Castro-Prieto, A., Wachter, B., & Sommer, S. (2011) suggest that the amount of genetic variability needed to sustain wild populations in the future is still questionable.  However, molecular genetic work may prove to be very valuable in terms of selection of partnering strategies. Captive breeding strategies should never exempt the use of other techniques commonly used including pedigree considerations for long-term breeding and re-establishment of the cheetah species (Miller, P.S. & Hedrick, P.W., 1991). 
Molecular techniques such as cloning, sequencing, the use of fluorescent-labelled references, SSCP, PCR are all useful in determining the sequence of, the variability of and the correlation of particular genetic sequences that may be involved in the longevity of a species.  Studies to this date have been smaller and may be affected by smaller sample sizes, research costs and the lack of technical skill needed to perform these types of studies. 

Eco Spot

            The use of public video channels such as YouTube and Vimeo has recently proven to be an effective way to communicate with the public.  Not only are they easy for the average person to understand, they are stimulating, easy to re-watch and they are viewable on many different platforms including computers, smartphones, iPads, tablets, etc.  They also have the ability to be shared at many different locations including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.  By sharing videos in these many locations, one is more easily able to reach a wider audience.
            An example of video being used to promote a conservation topic can be seen at the website which had an extensive campaign to save tigers last year.  The video was created to be exciting and engaging, creating an interest in the viewer to become more involved in the campaign. 
            For this particular research presented in this paper, we will be working to create a series of a couple of videos to present some of the topics involving the Cheetah and a couple of the DNA laboratory methods that were presented.  In explaining why studying the cheetah’s DNA may help cheetahs to be genetically stronger and better able to survive while also demonstrating their role in the web of life, it is hoped that the public’s understanding of these topics will provide a greater motivation for getting involved in cheetah conservation.
Through the use of an iPhone and the software Microsoft Moviemaker, video footage will be cut and edited to create the final product.  These videos will then be incorporated into the Environmentally Fashionable/Globally Healthy Network which works to promote the education of the general public, namely adults, in the subjects of environmental issues, environmentally friendly clothing and fitness/wellness.  It is with great hope that they will be well-received and that they serve the purpose of teaching.  


Castro-Prieto, A., Wachter, B., Sommer, S. (2011). Cheetah Paradigm Revisited: MHC Diversity in the World’s Largest Free-Ranging Population.  Mol. Biol. Evol. 28 (4). 1455-1468.

Castro-Prieto, A., Wachter, B., Melzheimer, J., Thalwitzer, S., Hofer, H., Sommer, S. (2012). Immunogenetic Variation and Differential Pathogen Exposure in Free-Ranging Cheetahs across Namibian Farmlands. PLoS ONE. Volume 7 (11), 1-8.

Cheetah Conservation Fund. (2012). Cheetah Fact Sheet. Retrieved from:

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Drake, G.J.C., Kennedy, J.L., Auty, H.K., Ryvar, R., Ollier, E.R., Kitchener, A.C., Freeman, A.R., Radford, A.D. (2004). The use of reference strand-mediated conformational analysis for the study of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) feline leucocyte antigen class II DRB polymorphisms. Molecular Ecology. 13. 221-229.

Hedrick, P.W. (1996). Bottleneck(s) or Metapopulation in Cheetahs.  Conservation Biology, Volume 10 (3), 897-899.

Miller, P.S., Hedrick, P.W. (1991). MHC Polymorphism and the Design of Captive Breeding Programs: Simple Solutions Are Not the Answer. Conservation Biology. Vol. 5 (4). 556-558.

O’Brien, S.J., Johnson, W.E. (2005). Big Cat Genomics. Annual Review Genomics Hum. Genet. Volume 6. 407-429.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Get Me to the Church (Gym) on Time!

I get so many remarks regarding how early I go to the gym...and believe it or not, going at 5:30 a.m. is NOT my favorite time to go, I am not a fully functional, social person so early...BUT, going after working a full day is not going to happen, either because I feel tired, fed up with many other things to do or with living in Chicago, you gotta enjoy the beautiful afternoon weather instead!

Getting to the church on time, requires a lot of prep work the day boyfriend helped me out with this since he is far better at being on time than I!  But essentially, when I get home from my work, I pretty much empty out any dirty laundry out of my gym suitcase, fill it with tomorrow's cute outfit, shoes and accessories, seal her back up and get her back into the trunk of my car!

I also grab a quick outfit that I can wear at the gym the next morning and have that waiting for me on the bathroom counter so I can just grab it and throw it on.  I'm so not good at figuring out what to put on so early ;)

The most time consuming prep item is to gather all my food together for the next day.  Being that I compete and just in general eat healthy to stay fit, grabbing food from anywhere is kinda like a no-no!  No runnning up to get something, no fast food.  So I have my 6 Pack Bag packed with my after workout meal, breakfast, lunch and also have some extra protein powder in there if I find myself running somewhere directly after work and needing a quick meal!  4 o'clock is my feeding time right after work and this girl has gotta eat!!

My suitcase packed and ready to go!

Tomorrow's workout clothes on the bathroom counter ready to throw on!

6-Pack Bag sitting on my kitchen counter.  I throw in all refrigerated items morning-of!  This cool case even has all my daily vitamins, teas, etc.

So by 6:45am, I'm headed to work and smiling...I'm pretty much done with my workout for the day!  Btw, I only spend about 45 minutes tops daily there ;)

Hope this blog helps anyone that would like to get it going in the morning...but doesn't quite know how to get it done!  It's a tough schedule to get used to but invigorating once you do!

xo Natalie Lynn